The first Trip to Russia


We left the Salt Lake airport around the middle of the day on Saturday March 10th. We flew from there to LAX where we had about 2 Ĺ hours to wait till we got on our Aeroflot flight to Moscow. The plane left at about 5pm LA time. We flew for nearly 12 and a half hours and arrived in Moscow at 6pm local time on the 11th. We essentially lost our Sunday. We arrived and were met by our Moscow coordinator Svetlana. She then had us buy our ticket for the next day then she had a driver take us all to our hotel in downtown Moscow, the Ukrania. It is a big soviet era building and very imposing but it was all right except for the fact that the beds mattresses were so old that it was like sleeping in a hammock.

            The next morning we woke up after a hard night sleeping since our bodies didnít agree with the local clocks. We got breakfast at the hotel restaurant, and then soon after Svetlana arrived to pick us up for our flight to Salekhard.

            The original plan had been to go to Chelyabinsk, then on to Salekhard. Then a few days before we left there was some difficulties the type of visa we had gotten so it was decided to go to Salekhard then to Chelyabinsk. Then, just the night before we left we found out that the boys we had been pursuing in Chelyabinsk all this time would not be available at all. I had also been hearing that the judge in Chelyabinsk had been putting forth all sorts of bizarre challenges for people who were adopting, whereas Salekhard was very agreeable to adoption by Americans. So we ended up only going to Salekhard and not going to Chelyabinsk at all, but we really didnít come to this decision fully till we were in Moscow.

            Our flight to Salekhard left Monday afternoon and was fairly uneventful. It was even non-smoking which was different from our Aeroflot flight, which had not been non-smoking and had been something of a trial for us. Everyone seems to smoke in Russia. It was almost impossible to escape.

            We arrived in Salekhard at about 6pm local time and were met by our coordinator/social worker, Tatiana, and her translator, Irina. They took us to our hotel which was located less than a quarter mile from the orphanage. After they got us settled they left. We then had to communicate with the hotel staff with our poor Russian. I knew before going that my vocabulary was weak, but it really became apparent just how weak when we tried to say most anything. At any rate we did get dinner and then tried to settle down and sleep some more. This was difficult because our room was at around 82 degrees. It was very hot and there was nothing that could be done since the heating system had no sort of controls and was made to keep the room comfortable when it was 40 below zero outside. It was only 10 degrees above zero so the system was keeping it too hot.

            We had a tough night trying to sleep together with the heat and jetlag but we made it through the night and did Ok at breakfast. At 9am they came by to pick us up and take us to the ministry of education to officially register us as adoptive parents. After that we then went to the orphanage to see the children.

            The first children they showed us were two brothers that we had heard about before we came. After that they showed us a brother and sister. Then they showed us a single boy. After we had seen them all they asked us to make a decision. It was very had to do but we felt the Spirit confirm to us that we should adopt the two brothers as well as the single boy. We asked for a half an hour to decide and discussed it and prayed about it and both felt good about the decision.

            The orphanage staff were more than a little surprised that we would adopt all three since in Russia anything more than one or two children is considered very unusual. When we had showed the people there pictures of our families they always commented on how large they were.

            After we had made the decision we went back to our hotel for lunch and then we walked around town a little. Salekhard is a town in northwestern Siberia. It sits directly on the Arctic Circle and is the epitome of what people think about when they think of Siberia. The Ob river which flows by the town is frozen for three quarters of the year and freezes so deep that from November through May it is used as a highway between Salekhard and its sister city on the other side of the river. The town has somewhere around 30,000 people living in it and is the administrative center of the region. It has a lot of business going on in it. We took some video of it as we walked around.

            In the afternoon we went back to the orphanage and spent two hours with the boys. We played with them and got a lot of video and generally got to know them better. The next day we went back and saw them for another three hours in the morning and then again for another couple of hours in the afternoon. That evening we went out to dinner with our translator and coordinator. On Thursday we again spent the morning with the boys. Then after lunch we went on a sight seeing/shopping trip with our coordinator and translator. They thought their town only worth a couple of hours sight seeing but we spent over three and could easily spent more time. We bought a few souvenirs and both Ev and I ended up buying fur hats which everyone there wears.

            That afternoon we had our last visit with the boys. They still didnít understand the importance of our leaving or really about the adoption, but we still had a nice visit. We also videoed some other children who the agency in the US wanted to have video to show to people in the states. We also arranged with our translator Irina to come a couple of times a week to start teaching the boys English. In all our time together thus far we had spoken with them only in Russian.

            Information on the boys: Tolya, the oldest, official name: Anatoly, six years old and will turn seven in November; Sasha, his younger brother, official name Alexander, just turned five in January; Alosha, unrelated to the others, official name Alexie, five turning six in May. They all come from deprived backgrounds. Sasha was born club feet. He has had two operations to correct the problem and is now almost fully cured. He has been in a couple of orphanages since birth and has been in this one for nearly three years. His brother Tolya, was remover for neglect, but has only been in the orphanage for about a year and a half. Alosha has been in the orphanage the longest. His family was too large for his parents to have another child and he has been in the orphanage since age two. The stories of these boys is heart-rending, but it is also good to know that with us they will have a chance at a better life. They all seem to be good kids. Sasha is a firecracker and will probably give us the most trouble, but he is good at heart. Alosha shows the most delays for his age, but that is most likely because of his long institutionalization. Tolya is the least delayed and seems a really good kid, though he too will certainly be a challenge at times. This is a huge step for us. We are hopefully going to be going back to finalize the adoption sometime in April. This is fast but our Salekhard coordinator is getting married and wants to get things wrapped up before her marriage, so she is very motivated.

            We left Salekhard on Friday and arrived in Moscow at the airport and went back to the same hotel. We went out sight seeing in Moscow for Saturday. We went to most of the traditional sights: Red square, the Kremlin, St. Basilís cathedral, Old Arbat street. We had a fairly good time. The one problem was that all the still pictures taken in Moscow didnít turn out.

            We wanted to find an LDS church to go to on Sunday. We had a hard time finding anyone who even knew of the church. I emailed from the hotel back to one of my contacts in the missionary department and he got me the phone number for the Moscow mission president. We called and I talked to the presidentís wife who gave us the number of a member of the branch presidency who worked at the US embassy which is close by our hotel. We arranged to have them pick us up and take us to church. It was really nice, but different. The Church doesnít own any buildings so the international branch meets in rented rooms in a building which also had a quiz show and some sort of musical review going on while we were in our meetings. We met a lot of nice people and even taped a message to from a missionary couple serving there to take home to one of their kids whose family only lives a few miles from us.

            After church we just hung out in our room the rest of the day, read, and watched TV. The next day we were off to the airport and then flying home. We flew from Moscow to Seattle direct. The oddities of the international dateline made it so that we left Moscow at 12:30pm and arrive in Seattle over eleven hours later at 12:45pm the same day. We had about a four hour layover in Seattle then on to Salt Lake and home. We got to experience jetlag all over again.  

            We spent most of this week recovering from the trip. It took three days to get to be able to sleep properly again.

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